Thursday, February 13, 2014

Shroud Eater - Dead Ends

Shroud Eater, for the first time in about two weeks here at Contaminated Tones, is a band that actually has a cool name to match their music. No offense to Hedlok or Dismemberment, but you can take a lesson here. Names matter. Shroud Eater from the quaint village of Miami, Florida sounds nothing like the tropical bustle or bikini clad sands of the famous seaside city. Instead, on Dead Ends, we get a slow smoky effort that mixes the best of sludge and doom into a cesspool of lights-out, night-worshipping soundtracks that create a perfect atmosphere for late night boozing, early morning toking or mid-day sleazing. Electric Wizard's early material is a good starting point but where Shroud Eater separate themselves is in the clarity of their murk and the precision of their fuzzed out spaces. For a three-person unit, Shroud Eater are thick and full and substantial. There is no thinness, no one-sidedness, no lack of anything required. The balance of guitars and bass on this album is textbook.

Displays of this doomy sludge are visible across the whole release, from opening tone-piece "Cannibals" to personal favorite "Lord of the Sword" straight through pummeling closer "The Star and the Serpent." Each song is distinguishable and it's own dungeon. With a brick-and-mortar simplicity, each song, though varied is held together by the band's standout characteristic approach to memorable rhythms, intelligently placed breaks and the dual-vocal attack of guitarist Jeannie Saiz and bassist Janette Valentine.Their vocal approach is unique as it's almost a gang chant / yell but with a sense of pitch to it that, without knowing, wouldn't be distinguishable immediately as a female's. While most of the album is the slick riffed monster that we've come to love from power-trio bands that skirt through this ether of genre-blending, occasionally, as in "Lord of the Sword" the band finds themselves tackling more open spaces with slow dribbles of melancholy and doomish atmospheres tackled with ringing chords and flourishes that find themselves about as home on Dead Ends as mud at a construction site. "Sudden Plague" draws forth some punk influence but what stands out here is how much it reminds me of Hivelords' debut full length last year which I loved, even if this is a bucketful less black.

With Shroud Eater pulling elements into each song and setting them in place like expert brick-layers, it's hard to point out any individual negatives here. At times, it's possible that Shroud Eater sound a little too simplistic. At moments, there almost could be more added to the stripped down murk they've concocted, I suppose. Sometimes breaks between notes can sound empty and hollow. Those would really be the only things I could think of being negatives but in response to myself, I could say that the album should be as minimalist as it is and the quieter in-between moments offer nice juxtaposition to the faster heavier moments. Fans of Eyehategod would definitely like this as would Converge fans looking for something slower. Really anyone into Doom alternatives and the heavy stoned out outcroppings of their genres would find some solace here, particularly a track like "Tempest" which culminates with a rocking schuss of bluesy riffs.

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